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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Children's Writing with a Purpose: Author Interview with Sherrill Cannon

Of all the genres you could write, what drew you to writing for children? 
I have always loved to write rhyming poetry, and I have loved reading rhyming books to children, so writing rhyming books for children seemed perfect!  I enjoy the music of the words…and so do the kids!  I also try to teach something with my children’s books, disguised as fun stories of course, hoping to promote manners and consideration for others one book at a time! 
What inspired you to write the first book? 
My first book was not my first published book.  The first book I wrote was Peter and the Whimper-Whineys, where I put into rhymed verse a story that my mother had told to me and my brother when we were children – and later on to all the grandchildren – and I wanted to get it into written form.  She was delighted with the result, and the book is dedicated to her. (The book also helps children learn how annoying whining can be!)
The first published book was Santa’s Birthday Gift, which was a story that came to me in a dream after I had read a story of the Nativity to my granddaughter and she looked at me and asked, “But where’s Santa?”  This was the one I wanted to share first.
What did you learn after writing your first book that you improved upon in your next books? 
I learned that I could challenge editing changes!  After resisting as much editing as possible with Santa’s Birthday Gift, but afraid to object to the edits too much, I decided to politely decline all but punctuation changes in the next ones. 

Writing rhyming books is not just about having the words at the end of the lines rhyme…It’s about the meter (or cadence) of the words which has to stay consistent.  The stories should have a musical flow, with no “forced rhyme” (twisting the order of the words so that they rhyme at the end of a line.)  I also use “slant rhyme” occasionally (like “self” and “help”) in order to maintain the flow of the lines. 
When did you actually start writing your first book?
Many of my books were written several years ago, and then I sent them to the Library of Congress to copyright them, and waited until retirement to try to publish them.
How long did it take to write your first draft? 
Children’s books are not very long, so they don’t take very long to write either!  Most of them took less than a day – and then perhaps a little more time to polish them. 
You’ve now published 6 books and they all deal with teaching a specific message. What do you hope children and parents will take away from your writing? 
As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to help children learn to be more considerate, to think of others, to have good manners, and to avoid bullying.  Self-esteem is very important, but not at the expense of others.  I feel that children need to learn respect, and that their behavior should be acceptable to others…all of which can be learned by reading books that boost these values.
You are also using these books for fundraising for CureJM and I’m Bully Free. Tell me about them.
I discovered the CureJM Foundation when I read a Facebook request from “Addie’s Angels” about a little 7-year old girl with an incurable disease, Juvenile Myositis.  I was astounded that in this day and age there was a life-threatening disease affecting our children and no one seemed to be aware of it!  My publisher agreed to set up a fundraiser where when purchased through 50% of the cost of the books would go to the CureJM Foundation. 
Another of the CureJM kids is a teen, Cassandra, who has Juvenile Arthritis as well as several other medical problems.  (She is also one of my Junior Reviewers.) She has also been subjected to a lot of bullying, and copied me on a link to the imbullyfree organization.  They have now adopted “Manner-Man” as the children’s superhero book, and are planning to include copies in their future programs.  In the meantime, books purchased through have 50% of the cost of the books going to their organization. 
Prior to writing these children’s books, what was your publishing and writing background? 
I have quite a few published poems in various poetry book collections, as well as another story published earlier in an anthology. 
I also have written seven plays for elementary school students that are now published through and have been performed internationally. So far, in addition to the US, Canada and the UK, they have been performed in Australia, Austria, Botswana, Cambodia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Spain and United Arab Emirates!!!
Are you active in any writer critique groups?
No groups, although my publisher has asked me to maintain an Author-to-Author page through the SBPRA website. This is a page about contests at
Your bio says you are an award-winning author. Can you give me some background on the two organizations you've won multiple awards for?
Here are the links for the contests:  (which will explain better than I can!)
Reader's Favorite: Book Reviews and Award Contest (
(This is probably the most popular contest for Indies and small press authors)

Reader Views ( sponsors the Reviewers Choice Awards
(The award certificate says Reviewers Choice, so I list it that way.)
One has to remember that the major awards, ALA, Newbery, Caldecott, etc - as well as SCBWI by the way - will not consider any but traditionally published books.  I submit anyway, but know that it's useless.  I enter the ones I consider legitimate and which accept POD books - but never any like the Mom's Choice Awards with a $300 entry fee! 

Your publisher, Eloquent Books is a traditional/self-publishing blend where you pay a certain fee and they provide certain services. How much did you research this company before going with it?
My publisher is actually Strategic Books Publishing and Rights Agency (SBPRA) although Santa’s Birthday Gift was under its Eloquent Books division at the time of publication. I actually prefer to call it a “Help-Publish” publisher. I realized that I would have to participate in the marketing, but that I would get advice and guidance from the publisher along the way. I researched the company online a little ahead of time.
Did you try the traditional route of publishing as well?
In the past, I had made a few attempts at sending some queries to the larger publishers, but after the “we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts” from the publishers, and the “we don’t represent unpublished authors” from the literary agents, I decided that I would have faith in my books and would prefer to have readers determine whether or not my books would be popular!
What type of promotions does your publisher do on your behalf? What are some of the promotions that you’ve done that have been the most successful?
The more success my books have, the more promotions my publisher provides.  Opportunities for international sales with the Book Expos all over the world, supportive tweets and postings throughout the social network, as well as positive endorsements.  My best promotions have been the success of my books in winning awards!  Awards give instant credibility to books, since readers realize the books are worth considering!  Today I received notice that as a result of SBPRA participation in BEA14, all six of my titles have been included in “the IB PYP collection of titles and their newest venture “The IB Library” via STUDYeBUDDY.
IB PYP stands for “International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme”. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation. There are currently more than 1,181,000 IB students at 3,776 schools in 147 countries. This curriculum, taught in grades Pre-K through 5 or roughly the ages 3-11, encourages students across the world to become internationally minded, active, compassionate and lifelong learners who strive to understand other people and their cultures. Everything has a global perspective.” How awesome is this???
What has frustrated you the most in putting these books together?  What has pleasantly surprised you in the process? 
No frustrations, since SBPRA accepts my input and respects my judgment. My illustrator for all six books, Kalpart, is awesome and allows me great input. The group is located in India, and it has been fun to communicate through email and scans. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easily my mental images could translate into illustrations!
What advice would you give someone who wants to write children’s stories?
There is a lot of competition out there now.  Lots of celebrities are writing children’s books, and they have clout!  My advice to any author is to find your niche and write within your genre.  Children need positive messages, and learn what they read.  You can’t please everyone, but your book should appeal to as many as possible and have multi-cultural appeal. You want ALL children to enjoy your books!
What is the writing best advice you’ve been given? 
Always read your books aloud, to be sure the words flow with meter and rhyme.  It’s also helpful to have someone else read it aloud, to be sure they pronounce words the same way you do…
What other books do you currently have in process?
 I have three manuscripts ready for publication, but I only want to do one book per year.  My editor’s daughter, age 10, is currently reading them to determine which one to choose for next year! I always like to get feedback from kids, but of course her Mom will make the final decision.  It’s already under contract…whichever it is!
Statistics show that many independent authors, unless they do heavy marketing, sell under 100 books. Would you mind sharing your book numbers?
At latest royalty report, Santa's Birthday Gift is over 4000 sold, Peter and the Whimper-Whineys is over 1000, The Magic Word is over 500, with both Gimme-Jimmy  and Manner-Man near that, while recently released My Fingerpaint Masterpiece is already over 100  (That is in the order they were released, by the way - one per year since Nov. 2009.)  Also, this includes only the print version latest royalty report figures - there are also significant eBook sales. Several are already on the shelves in China and other international catalogs. 
I’ve read some negative reviews about your publisher. How do you feel about them?
SBPRA has been wonderful to me!  They care, they reach out, they give wonderful advice – and if your book succeeds, they give 110% to help your book sell.  I wish they had been available when I first started writing my stories!
There are many successful authors here at SBPRA - too busy to complain. There is also some negative publicity that has been proven untrue, but you can't un-ring the bell...  The frivolous lawsuit from what appeared to be a “witch-hunt” was settled “with no admission of guilt and no violation of the law.” There's a lot more information on my website on the SBPRA Info page if you care to take a look. (
Thank you for your insights and your honesty. If you would like to learn more about Sherrill and her writing, here are some links to do that.
Amazon Links for Books by Sherrill S Cannon
Barnes and Noble Links for Books by Sherrill S. Cannon

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